ICC World Cup 2019: Allrounders’ performance to determine India’s fortunes
Players with allround skills have played pivotal roles in two of India’s successful World Cup campaigns. The squad that engineered the historic 1983 World Cup win had a number of allrounders — Kapil Dev, Mohinder Amarnath, Roger Binny and Madan Lal — and each one of them played a crucial role in India’s triumph in England.
MS Dhoni’s squad in 2011 wasn’t as blessed, with Yusuf Pathan being the only genuine allrounder. However, southpaw Yuvraj Singh, with his subtle left-arm spin, filled in the allrounder’s role with aplomb by grabbing 15 wickets in nine matches and scoring 362 runs to emerge as the player of the tournament.
Mohinder Amarnath, man of the match in the 1983 World Cup semifinal and final, recently said that the presence of allrounders helps the balance of the team. “It gives you a choice of how you want to go about with the rest of the team,” he said.
The Virat Kohli-led side travelling to England boasts of two fast bowling allrounders in Hardik Pandya and Vijay Shankar, one spin-bowling allrounder in Ravindra Jadejaand Kedar Jadhav, a batsman who can roll his arm over with his unique side-arm off-spin.
Many former cricketers, including former West Indies captain Clive Lloyd, have predicted that the 2019 World Cup in England will be dominated by allrounders, and the performance of multi-dimensional players in the Indian squad will yet again be a determining factor in the team’s fortunes.
India waited for over two decades searching for a genuine fast-bowling allrounder after Kapil Dev hung up his boots. When Hardik Pandya burst on to the scene in 2016, many began drawing parallels with the Haryana Hurricane. The Baroda allrounder has shown that he can hold his nerve in crunch situations and win matches both with the bat and ball.
The 25-year-old bowled the crucial last over in the World T20 match against Bangladesh in 2016 and defended two runs off the last three balls to script India’s one-run win.
With bat in hand, Pandya, during the early part of his career, had a penchant for going after the bowling from the word go. Often, the exuberance of youth led to his dismissal. But with the passage of time, Pandya has shown signs of maturing as a batsman.
The off-field controversy surrounding the sexist remarks he made in a chat show last year resulted in both Pandya and KL Rahul being suspended and saw them missing the ODI series in Australia at the beginning of the year. But the lifting of the suspension has made Pandya hungrier, as the IPL showed. In the 15 times he batted for Mumbai Indians, Pandya raked up 402 runs at an average of 44.66 with a strike rate of 191.42. He also picked up 14 wickets at an average of 27.85 to play a significant role in Mumbai Indian’s title triumph.
This will be the first major tournament in national colours for the tattoo-loving allrounder following the controversy, and a more focused Pandya augurs well for India’s cause. “I don’t think there can be another Kapil Dev. It will be putting too much pressure on Hardik if we start comparing him with Kapil. Hardik has the talent to excel in all departments.
“He has the potential to serve India for long. His performance in England will be crucial not just for India but for his future career,” Madan Lal, the joint second-highest wicket-taker in 1983, including a 3/31 in the final, told TOI.
Pandya’s suspension had proved to be a blessing in disguise for the second pace bowling allrounder in the side, Vijay Shankar. The Tamil Nadu player got a chance to make his ODI debut in Australia early this year only because Pandya missed out. The most inexperienced player in India’s World Cup squad with just 10 ODIs to his credit, Shankar has come a long way since his painstaking 17 from 19 balls in the final of Nidahas Trophy final. The same set of fans who berated him after that knock were all praise after he defended 10 runs in the last over against Australia in Nagpur.
But more than his bowling, it is his batting that has caught the team management’s imagination. Pushed up the order in the Australia ODI series, Shankar almost matched his skipper Kohli stroke for stroke with an accomplished 46 from 41 balls in the same match in Nagpur. A fluent timer of the ball, Shankar has been labelled by chief selector MSK Prasad as the player for the No.4 spot.
With 151 ODIs under his belt, Ravindra Jadeja is the most experienced allrounder in the squad and knows a thing or two about bowling in England. The 30-year-old played an important role in India’s Champions Trophy title run in 2013 when he was the second-highest wicket taker with 12 wickets. But the same Jadeja appeared listless in the final of the same tournament four years later in England.
He picked up just four wickets in five matches in that tournament, a performance that saw Indian team management shift their focus to wrist spinners. Jadeja’s game-time in England would depend on the composition Kohli decides to field.
Though not an allrounder in the stricter sense, Kedar Jadhav has just recovered from an injury and his batting will be under the microscope in England. With the ball, his clever variations in pace and trajectory may not be easy pickings for rival batsmen. Though no one expects him to do the role of a Yuvraj Singh, he can be a utility cricketer and can do the job Suresh Raina did in the previous two World Cups.
The World Cup will be a make-or-break tournament for the likes of Pandya, Vijay Shankar and Jadeja.